On July 4, 1776 inside Independence Hall, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the Declaration of Independence. Four days later, on July 8, 1776, John Nixon publicly read the Declaration of Independence to a crowd of people summoned to the State House Yard by the bells of the city of Philadelphia. Financier and military officer John Nixon served under George Washington at the Battle of Princeton and in Valley Forge. According to historian William Hogeland, the crowd shouted “God bless the free states of North America!” three times in response to the reading.
The bell that called the crowd to the reading was constructed in 1751 to commemorate the fifty year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges. This bell, originally called the State House Bell, cracked during a test and then was recast twice before it was hung (without cracks) from the State House steeple in June 1753. There it hung until 1777 when it was removed from hiding.
The bell acquired its current moniker in 1830 when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.
Legend states that the Liberty Bell cracked again while tolling for the funeral of the Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall in 1835.
It was rung for the last time to commemorate George Washington’s birthday in 1846.
Visited by more than one million people every year, the bell currently resides in Liberty Bell Center, Philadelphia.
It weights 2080 pounds, is twelve feet in circumference and three feet tall.
The bell still hangs from its original yoke of slippery elm, also known as American elm.
The bell rings in E flat.
Professor Constance M. Greiff, in her book tracing the history of Independence National Historical Park, wrote of the Liberty Bell:
“The Liberty Bell is the most venerated object in the park, a national icon. It is not as beautiful as some other things that were in Independence Hall in those momentous days two hundred years ago, and it is irreparably damaged. Perhaps that is part of its almost mystical appeal. Like our democracy it is fragile and imperfect, but it has weathered threats, and it has endured.”